The small forward class for the coming summer is perhaps the weakest of any position — few, if any, big names are poised to hit the market. Fortunately for teams with high first-round picks, the draft is heavy on wing players, but for contending teams in need of a small forward, the pickings appear slim. Let's take an early look at the market….
Unrestricted Free Agents
No small forward facing unrestricted free agency is without his blemishes. Grant Hill has played well in Phoenix, but will turn 40 in October and just underwent another knee surgery. Josh Howard also had surgery on his knee, and hasn't looked like his old self over the last two seasons. Boris Diaw clashed with his coach in Charlotte and faces constant questions about his conditioning. Each of these players, along with Matt Barnes, Carlos Delfino, Steve Novak, and Mickael Pietrus, among others, could conribute to a contender, but it's hard to imagine any of them playing a major role. Gerald Green will be an interesting free agent to watch if he continues his impressive play for New Jersey. The Nets will certainly have the cap space to bring him back, but if they pursue bigger-name free agents, perhaps another team will swoop in on Green.
Restricted Free Agents
Only three small forwards will be coming off the fourth and final year of their rookie scale contracts: Nicolas Batum, Michael Beasley, and Donte Greene. I'm not sure if Beasley and Greene will even receive qualifying offers from the Timberwolves and Kings, but Batum should be a hot commodity. With few long-term contracts and plenty of cap room, the Trail Blazers are in good position to retain Batum, though another club could make it expensive for them. Landry Fields and Danny Green highlight the rest of the restricted free agents, and each will have Early Bird rights, so their current teams could re-sign them if they so choose. Sonny Weems should return from playing overseas, and the Raptors will still hold his rights, though it's unclear if Weems is in Toronto's future plans.
Players With Options
Gerald Wallace holds a $9.5MM player option for next season and is the most interesting name here by far. If he opts out, Wallace probably won't find a 2012/13 contract that exceeds $9.5MM, but he should receive multiyear offers whose totals exceed that figure. It'll be interesting to see the Nets' approach with the veteran forward in the offseason. They won't want to have given up their first-round pick for a six-week rental, but I'm not sure whether they view Wallace as a long-term asset or perhaps an eventual trade chip for Dwight Howard. Either way, I doubt they'll want to let him hit the open market this summer.